Autumn Phillips: Can you see me?


I am an invisible (wo)man.I discovered this about myself Monday as a woman poured her heart out to me.

We were sitting in the small confessional booth/gondola car, just the two of us. We were facing each other.

She told me about the failing marriage of her best friend and how hard it was for her to watch. She explained why the husband moved out after only a year of marriage. She told me how the husband returned late at night and begged to be taken back.

She told me that it was tearing her friend apart.

I listened knowingly, but she did not want my advice or my opinion. We were only riding the gondola together -- two strangers, and she was on her cell phone.

I was not there. I was invisible.

On Monday, I was in a post-Christmas laze. By the time I had my ski pants on, it was afternoon, and everyone I knew had already skied. If I wanted to enjoy the day, I would have to do it by myself.

Skiing alone has its benefits. There never is a wait in the singles line, and no one gets impatient when you stop for whole minutes to take in the glowing blue panorama of the valley below.

But there also is the strange phenomenon that I experienced Monday. When you enter the gondola alone or share a chair lift with a couple, you cease to exist.

I still was pondering the private details of a stranger's marriage when I swooped through the singles line at Storm Peak Express and joined a young tele-couple for the ride up.

I said "Hello" and "Nice day" as the ride began, but they didn't seem to hear me. Instead, their conversation began.

They told me about their dog who died not so long ago. He apparently had a good life and liked Arizona most of all.

The tele-couple had been together a long time, they told me. They owned a house and were in the process of renovating. They told me what they would order from Double Z the next day. When the man made a comment about the effects on his stomach of too many chicken lips sandwiches, I gave a knowing laugh, which they didn't seem to hear.

Then I remembered, I wasn't there.

I hadn't seen myself in the mirror to note whether I had a reflection that day. I hadn't looked behind myself as I skied down the mountain to make sure I had a shadow.

All I could see of myself were my two legs dangling from the chairlift and my snow covered skis below them.

From the sight of those legs, I assumed that I existed, but I was beginning to doubt it.

This day, I realized, I was taking some purposeless solo journey to Christmas Present.

It was a chance to see what Steamboat was like if I had never been.

I realized with a tinge of disappointment that it wasn't much different.

On the next ride, I sat with two guys whom I recognized from my particular social orbit. Of course, they did not see me. I listened as they talked about the life of one of my friends. I hadn't seen him in months, and it was good to catch up. He has a new girlfriend, apparently, and she sounds nice.

But that was enough information for one day. We reached the top of the lift, I pushed off in the opposite direction of the two guys and pointed my skis toward the bottom of the mountain.

After I got home and removed my ski clothes, the spell wore off. My boyfriend peaked in the door and asked me about the skiing. I smiled.

If there is a moral to this Christmas carol, I don't know what it is. I did not go home and throw money to the neighbor kid to buy the biggest turkey he could find.

Instead, I shared the gossip about our friend's new girlfriend and asked where we were going to have dinner that night.


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